Around a year ago, Age readers learned of the efforts by the Football Mania Far North (FMFN) youth contingent to fundraise for a once in a lifetime trip to Chile.

Now only days stand between the squad of 15 children and 14 adults and their destination where they will experience first-hand a passion for the Beautiful Game so intense it is more akin to a religion.

The contingent will be based at Vina del Mar - on the coast about an hour west of capital, Santiago de Chile - where they will play 12 games in 14 days, do some sightseeing and hopefully travel back to Santiago to watch a game from the national club competition.

Team coach Paulo Montino said the trip had been in the planning for the past two years and presents a great opportunity to witness and experience the skill, fervour and passion of Chilean football and culture from a giant on the South American continent; Chile are the current holders of the Copa America having beaten Argentina in the last two finals (2015 in Chile and 2016 in the US).


He was very proud of the way everyone had gotten on board with the campaign, particularly his young charges who had grown extremely focused on the task at hand, and worked and trained particularly hard in the recent build up before their departure.

The FMFN squad enjoyed its last training session under Montino on Sunday.

He flies out this Friday to do some groundwork ahead of the tour before the bulk of the contingent departs on July 7.

The day wound up with a friendly six-a-side kick around where it was clear the coach's pedigree had rubbed off (he played for the Chile's national U20 side) with an emphasis on control, the early ball, and a one-touch passing and shooting game clearly evident.

The youngest in the team is 9-year-old Brodie Dawson, the oldest 12-year-old Charlie Doak, and captain is 12-year-old Robbie Dawson, with the majority of the team hailing from Ahipara Primary School.

Robbie plays football for the Kerikeri White team in Northland 13th Grade Division 1 championship. Like most of the teenagers in the team who are serious about their football, declining numbers in Kaitaia football over the past few seasons (a matter which is currently being addressed by the organisation's administration) has meant there is little to offer any enthusiast above under-13 level.

He felt all his teammates were ready for the trip and also for the huge step up in the level of ability this side can expect to face in Chile.

"Thanks to Paulo, he taught us good strategies," said Dawson, adding the efforts over the past two years, and with the trip now looming on the immediate horizon, showed it paid to "Dream Big".


Montino noted the players will be gone the duration of the term 2 holidays but will be back just in time for the start of term 3. He also thanked everyone that helped make this happen, including all those who supported the side's fundraising ventures, particularly local shops and businesses for providing items to raffle.